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CPP’s resident ‘Ninja,’ Grant Nguyen, climbs from one challenge to the next

By Matthew DeForest, May 3, 2022

Grant Nguyen, an avid recreational climber, represented Cal Poly Pomona on the 14th season of “American Ninja Warrior,” set to air on June 6 on NBC.

When Grant Nguyen was just a child, he watched “American Ninja Warrior” on TV for the first time. At that moment, Nguyen decided he wanted to train to be on the show and win the competition. He has spent years becoming the best climber and athlete he can be and has grown beyond his dream of becoming a ninja warrior.

Nguyen’s interest in climbing became his lifelong passion in his junior year of high school. Initially, Nguyen did not have access to a ninja warrior training gym, so his father bought him a membership at a regular rock climbing gym. Nguyen practiced a couple days a week after school and quickly fell in love with the activity.

“The goal was to be on ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ but I didn’t have an ‘American Ninja Warrior’ gym near where I lived,” said Nguyen. “So, the rock climbing gym was the closest place I had to get myself into for training. Honestly, after all these years, I love climbing just as much as ninja warrior.”

Grant Nguyen scales the bouldering wall at the USAC National Championship.

As the years passed, Nguyen continued to hone his climbing skills and train for the obstacle courses found on “American Ninja Warrior.”

Eventually, Nguyen began coaching children ages 6 to 14 at his local ninja warrior gym in Richmond, California. Nguyen has always envisioned himself working to better those around him as way to give back to the community. Nguyen is majoring in kinesiology with an emphasis in pedagogy to become a full-time teacher and coach, although he hasn’t yet decided what age group he will be teaching.

“I coach because it’s the most rewarding feeling for me to be able to make a positive difference in someone else’s life and hopefully inspire them,” said Nguyen. “When I first stepped into rock climbing, everyone in the community was so supportive, and now I want to be that support today.”

In recent years, Nguyen’s applications to the “American Ninja Warrior” show have been rejected three times. The disappointment from this rejection forced Nguyen to accept that he may never get onto the show at which his training was aimed toward.

Nguyen originally decided not to apply to the upcoming 14th season of “American Ninja Warrior” and focus on his coaching and helping his students work toward what he had previously dreamed about. However, when his students heard of this predicament, they weren’t willing to accept that their coach might not make it onto the show.

“Two weeks before applications were due, the kids heard I wasn’t applying, and they all said, ‘We have to see you on the show,’” said Nguyen. “So, I ended up putting together an application where I said I was doing it for the kids and it was about the kids, and I ended up getting selected.”

Nguyen’s passion for climbing became competitive beyond just applying for “American Ninja Warrior.” He has also competed in bouldering and rock climbing competitions regionally and nationally.

Most recently, Nguyen competed at the USA Climbing Collegiate National Championship in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, from April 21 to April 25. He competed in the free climb bouldering competition and the lead climbing competition, which involves ropes and line attachments to the climbing wall.

Unfortunately, Nguyen was involved in a bicycle accident a week before the competition that left him with severe pain in his left hand, one that hindered his ability to climb. Nguyen ended the competition ranked 27th out of 70 competitors, while only the top 20 finishers in each category went on to the final competition.

Even though it wasn’t a storybook ending, Nguyen was proud of his performance despite his injuries. He proved to himself that after all his training and time spent climbing, that he could be competitive against his peers.

Injuries were not the only obstacle to climbing and competing that Nguyen has experienced. Nguyen said that financial worries are a big reason why he has struggled to compete and why some other climbers don’t compete at all.

He stated his desire for CPP Athletics and administration to do more to financially support the campus and athletes that are not a part of traditional sports. Nguyen feels that the school should have more funds to expand its support of all campus athletes, including climbers.

“It means so much to me,” said Nguyen. “I skipped some meals just to save up for these trips and it hurts a lot. There are a lot of people at this school that wish they could have competed, but the costs were just too much.”

Nguyen noted that at the USA Climbing competitions he attended, other universities had entirely school-sponsored climbing teams. Nguyen feels that the climbing and sporting community at CPP deserves the same type of support from the school.

To support this community and to begin climbing, Nguyen encourages people to reach out to the CPP Adventures Club through the BRIC, where he and many others are always eager to teach new climbers.

All images courtesy of Grant Nguyen.

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